A weblog by Will Fitzgerald

Opposite of perquisite

I’ve glad Marti Hearst is writing for the Powerset blog from time to time. She’s written a nice post about antonyms (‘Opposites attract’), pairs of words which are ‘opposite’ in meaning.

I also enjoy reading The Atlantic’s Word Fugitive column, in which people are asked to come up with new (almost always humorous) terms for things and events. For example, “the moment of undignified vulnerability that people in airport security lines feel when they have to take off their shoes.” (Suggestions included ‘shoemiliation,’ ‘having cold feet,’ and ‘desabotage.’)

This month’s column asks for “a word for unpleasant occurrences that come with a job, even though they are not in the official job description, for example, when a hotel bellhop doesn’t get tipped or when a comedian gets heckled. In other words, what is the opposite of a perquisite?”

It’s kind of my job to answer questions like this — our search engine won’t come up with funny answers of course (well, they might be funny, but it’ll be for alll the wrong reasons). I was curious whether simple co-occurence statistics for ‘prequisite’ might reveal either synonyms or antonyms. So, here are the top fifty nouns, in which ‘perquisite’ or ‘perquisites’ appears within four words, according to Google’s Ngram data.

46 benefits
40 philly
21 fees
18 value
16 compensation
14 wages
14 salary
12 allowances
7 privileges
7 company
6 remuneration
6 profits
6 office
6 fringe
5 tax
5 roger
5 rebates
5 programs
5 incentives
5 corporate
4 valuation
4 tds
4 robocop
4 right
4 present
4 pietasters
4 jobs
4 gift
4 facilities
4 emolument
4 culture
4 ceo
4 benefit
4 accounts
3 term
3 stock
3 seniority
3 salaries
3 privilege
3 possessions
3 poison
3 perpetuity
3 pay
3 newspaper
3 modeling
3 mindstate
3 members
3 loan
3 incident
3 housing

Some of these, like philly and roger are clearly proper nouns, perhaps names in Philly law firms. There are lots of related terms, which are not quite synonyms or antonyms, like ceo (someone who has perquisites) or programs (which perquisites might be a part of). But there are cool words which are specific perquisites (or perhaps ‘sister terms’ for perquisites) (wages, salary, stock). And some things that are pretty close to synonyms: benefits (and fringe benefits, but we are only looking at single words), allowances, privilege(s), present and gift. Some of these have pretty clear antonyms: benefit/cost, privilege/responsibilities, gift/dues. And there is something that look very much like an antonym: tax.

So cool–just doing a very, very rough count gives us lots of related words. (Not quite sure what to do, though, about robocop and newspaper).

I actually have an antonym in mind for perquisite, if by ‘perquisite’ it is meant as a special or gratuitous benefit of a job. It’s what I often think of as shit-work. I’m sure the Atlantic readers will come up with something more elegant.

One response to “Opposite of perquisite

  1. Marti June 7, 2007 at 6:07 pm

    Robocop — that is odd. I just checked it out and there is a rock group named Philly & Perquisite, and another grouped called Robocop Kraus, all published by Epitaph Records. Ah, the joys of ngram analysis.

    Thanks for the shout out!

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